Reviewing the draft: St. Louis Rams

Following another disappointing exit from the playoffs the St. Louis Rams found themselves with an ageing team undergoing a shift at the most important positions. Free agent defections continue to mount and St. Louis needed to replace leaders from the recent glory years. With a low selection in the first round and the teams second round choice previously invested in Kyle Turley, Mike Martz and company had their work cut out for them.

Steven Jackson was one of the biggest draft day disappointments or surprises, depending on your point of view.  After Denver traded up most expected other teams to follow suit in order assure themselves of Jackson's services.  Instead most teams went with defensive players, wide receivers, and quarterbacks early which left Jackson stuck in a free fall.  A bargain late in round one, Jackson is a great fit for the Martz offense as he is equally adept both running the football or catching it out of the backfield.  Jackson should take touches away from Marshall Faulk throughout the year and as a result, help improve Faulk's durability. Tony Hargrove, who sat out the '03 season due to academics, was an afterthought at defensive end for most teams.  But after losing Grant Wistrom to free agency and potentially losing Leonard Little to legal problems the Rams were painted into a corner.  Obviously Martz thought enough of Hargrove to make him a first day selection and hopes his vaunted pass rush skills, which have not been seen in a year-and-a-half, will show up this season.  Brandon Chillar is a heady and disciplined linebacker always making positive plays.  Whether or not he has the athleticism to get the job done in the NFL remains to be seen.  Chillar will likely earn a spot as a special teams ace and a backup linebacker.  Should the teams athletic linebacker corps continue to struggle he could earn playing time based on his work ethic and football intellect. Jason Shivers was a good value selection by the Rams.  Shivers is an athletic safety that would have been a first day choice if not for a few brush's with the law.  Should he focus completely on football Shivers could earn a starting spot in the secondary by his second season in the league.  As a rookie he will be expected to contribute as the primary backup at both safety positions. Jeff Smoker is the newest quarterback project for Mike Martz.  Given Martz's history in developing signal callers it is not difficult to believe that Smoker will be a success at some point in his career.  Smoker combines  accuracy and solid fundamentals though he does not have the arm strength scouts favor.  He should fit well into the Martz system if he continues to mature as he has recently. Eric Jensen and Larry Turner are both likely candidates for the teams practice squad.  Jensen was overlooked but did a solid job at tight end for Iowa as both as pass catcher and blocker and could make it as the third man at the position.

St. Louis continues to have erratic drafts selecting players with incredible value, then following it up with head scratching choices.  With three of the teams seven picks a long shot to make the roster, this draft is difficult to like considering the teams age.  The selections of Shivers and Jackson gives two potential long term starters.  It is not likely that the team will improve dramatically in 2004 based on this draft but there could be some dividends in 2005 and beyond.

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